Charges dropped against journalist arrested while covering break-up of LA protest encampment
Freelance journalist Talia Jane was notified on July 7, 2021, that the Los Angeles city attorney’s office would not be pursuing charges against her stemming from her arrest in September 2020.
Jane was arrested while livestreaming as Los Angeles Police Department officers moved in to break up a protest encampment in the city’s Grant Park, across from City Hall, early on the morning of Sept. 13, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Jane — whose work has been published by VICE News, Elle, and Mic among others — was charged with failure to disperse and ordered to appear in court in January 2021. She did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
According to a series of tweets Jane posted to her private Twitter account, she attempted to confirm the status of the charges against her and the scheduling of her hearing with the city attorney’s office. In late June, a letter was sent to her grandparents notifying Jane of a hearing scheduled for July 7, the thread says, but she did not receive the notice in time to attend.
In a follow up tweet, Jane wrote, “[I] spoke with a hearing officer who is sending me a ‘no charge’ letter. The hearing was just to go over how failure to disperse is illegal. Case remains open until [the] statute of limitations expires (9/13/2021).”
Another journalist, Lexis-Olivier Ray, was similarly charged with failure to disperse in connection to his reporting on Dodgers’ celebrations on Oct. 27, 2020, and was notified that while the charges were dropped the case would remain open for a year. Local public defender Rosemary McClure told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in March 2021 that when a case is left open, if a second arrest takes place it can be used to paint the accused of being a danger to the public and result in a higher bail or being remanded to law enforcement custody.
As the L.A. city attorney’s office declined to pursue charges against Jane, the Tracker is updating the status of her case from charges pending to charges dropped.
Freelance journalist Talia Jane was arrested while covering a police raid of a protest camp in Los Angeles on Sept. 13, 2020.
Los Angeles law enforcement officers moved in to break up the encampment in the city’s Grant Park, across from City Hall, early on the morning of Sept. 13, the Los Angeles Times reported. The encampment had been established in June by activists, in part to support protests for racial justice and against police brutality that began following the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minnesota on May 25.
Jane told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker she was reporting on the police action for social media. Jane has freelanced for publications including VICE, Elle, and Mic. Before her arrest, Jane said, she was following a standoff between law enforcement officers and protesters involved with the group Black Unity LA.
At around 8:30 a.m., police ordered protesters to disperse, she said. Jane said she continued to film a line of police officers forming across a street, as she walked about half a block in front of the police.
Video she posted on Instagram shows four officers suddenly running toward her. “Put your hands behind your back,” one said repeatedly.
“You’re arresting me?” she asked.
According to Jane, she was identified as press on her hat and backpack and had a digital press badge from the Freelance Journalists Union on the lock screen of her phone. She said she told arresting officers multiple times that she was a journalist.
Jane said she was held for eight hours before she was released without bail. She said she faces a misdemeanor charge of failure to disperse and was given a citation for $5,000. According to Jane, she was given a court date in January 2021.
A spokesperson for the LAPD told the Tracker the department would not comment.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting several hundred incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering these protests across the country. Find these incidents here.